Closet Ball, a Salem party where people compete for enviable ‘camp’ titles and help out a local charity, will celebrate its 20th anniversary on September 16. All are invited, gay and straight and everyone in between.
“It’s popular, it’s fun, it’s a gas!” says organizer Darrell, Empress 16 and Emperor 13 of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Willamette Empire (ISCWE),) a non-profit GLBT charitable & social organization dedicated to fundraising.
The group extends a welcome to all to express their imagination and style that evening by dressing in the following judged categories:
1)Male to Female
2)Female to Male
3)Butch Female to Drag Queen
Even those who don’t compete are encouraged to attend and show support for friends, partners and family members – or just partake in a life-affirming event that benefits a local cause. The $5 cover charge will support programs for Rainbow Youth of Salem, an organization for gay, transgender, bisexual and straight young people. Rainbow Youth helps these youngsters with Thanksgiving dinners, activities and counselors for those whose parents are not accepting.
“Rainbow Youth is local, and it is Salem,” Darrell says.
He began the Closet Ball 20 years ago. As he tells it, he was being interviewed by a panel of judges for another title and was asked for his plans if he won. “I told them my idea was for a ball where anyone can transform themselves into their opposite thing. They told me it couldn’t be done. I hate it when people tell me that. I said, ‘Watch me!’”
“A Ball like this helps every person bring out the ‘inner you,’ or even the person you might have been if you were born a different gender. Many are curious about what they would look like if a different gender, and this is a fun way to find out. It’s all about fun and excitement and self-discovery.”
One of the impulses for charity work, for Darrell as well as others in the group, is the urge to transform negative personal experiences into something positive. In many cases they want to give back on behalf of friends lost to AIDS who are no longer able.
Not too many years ago, they tried to donate to a well-known philanthropic rescue organization. Their money was refused.
“They said they didn’t want our money because it was dirty. Because we were gay.”
The Ball and other activities are a way, Darrell says, “To show the straight community that we support local charities and we’re good people, just like anyone else. We have good and generous hearts and we want to give back.”
Reservations are not required. The Ball will be held at 7 p.m. at Salem’s Southside Speakeasy. Would-be participants or those with questions should visit the ISCWE website.